Fish experts are calling for CCTV to be installed on fish farms and slaughterhouses and for increased inspections to tackle welfare breaches.
A host of NGOs and key figures including professors and authors issued the plea to the UK advisory board, Animal Welfare Committee (AWC). They urge amendments be made to establish a process for regular welfare inspections.
Despite welfare standards detailing how fish must be spared “avoidable pain, distress, or suffering during their killing and related operations,” as written in the Welfare of Animals at the Times of Killing regulations, the state of British fish farms paints an entirely different picture.
Fish farm welfare
The consortium cited evidence obtained by Animal Equality, an animal protection charity.
It uncovered a hotbed of horrors on a premium Scottish salmon farm which supplies major supermarkets last year.
At The Scottish Salmon Company facility, investigators recorded fish being subjected to “prolonged pain” as their gills were ripped off, between broken stunning devices.
Scotland is the world’s third-largest farmed salmon producer, with many regarding it a leader in top-quality products. As one of its most prominent companies, The Scottish Salmon Company raises and kills more than 15 million farmed salmon every year.
Yet campaigners insist there is a “critical need” for better legislation. This is to protect aquatic animals in the wake of investigations such as Animal Equality’s.
Aquatic animal welfare
Among those to pen the letter to AWC is best-selling author Dr. Jonathan Balcombe, Dr. Lynne Sneddon of the University of Gothenburg, and Journal of Fish Biology writer, Professor Culum Brown.
They urge that “animals are being seriously let down,” and that the industry “cannot continue to be permitted to self-regulate.”
Other animal protection charities, The Humane League included, claim that there is no clear process of regular inspections at fish processing sites.
Dr. Sneddon stresses: “Had Animal Equality not carried out an investigation into the industry, I very much doubt the suffering of these particular aquatic animals would have ever come to light.
“We should not be relying on non-profits to carry out what is essentially a public service. It’s the UK Government’s duty to protect the animals killed for human consumption. And, currently, it is failing to carry out this basic duty of care.
“Specific, meaningful legislation is a critical part of the puzzle, and equally so is heightened enforcement and oversight”.